A stunning new translation-the first in more than forty years-of a major novel by the father of modern Japanese fiction Natsume S?seki's "Kusamakura" follows its nameless young artist-narrator on a meandering walking tour of the mountains. At the inn at a hot spring resort, he has a series of mysterious encounters with Nami, the lovely young daughter of the establishment. Nami, or "beauty," is the center of this elegant novel, the still point around which the artist moves and the enigmatic subject of S?seki's word painting. In the author's words, "Kusamakura" is "a haiku-style novel, that lives through beauty." Written at a time when Japan was opening its doors to the rest of the world, "Kusamakura" turns inward, to the pristine mountain idyll and the taciturn lyricism of its courtship scenes, enshrining the essence of old Japan in a work of enchanting literary nostalgia.
Literally meaning 'Pillow of Grass', Kusamakura is Soseki's portrayal of an artist who opposes convention and logic, and shuns emotional involvement. Soseki's artist attempts to live as a hermit using other people as his stimuli for his sensations and reflections. The artist fluently and prolifically composes poetry, but finds himself unable to paint - despite befriending a beautiful young divorcee. He remains emotionally distanced from her for a long time and it is only one day when he sees compassion in her eyes that he finds himself able to paint her, but also reconnected with the emotional undercurrents he had hitherto tried to avoid, thereby ending his retreat from the world. Siseko's beautiful and haikuesque novel is infused with his own musings on art and nature, and helped to establish the novel as a major literary form in Japan.
Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) is one of the best-known Japanese authors of the 20th century and considered as the master of psychological fiction. As well as his works of fiction, his essays, haiku, and kanshi have been influential and are popular even today.Meredith McKinney holds a PhD in medieval Japanese literature from the University in Canberra, where she teaches in the Japan Centre. Her other translations include Ravine and Other Stories, The Tale of Saigyo, and for Penguin Classics, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.